internet infrastructure

Coventry to become gigabit city with core metro fibre upgrade

Alex Scroxton

Coventry City Council has sold off its 140km metro fibre network, the Coventry Core, to pure fibre infrastructure specialist CityFibre as part of a plan to bring gigabit internet speeds to thousands of local businesses.

The council commissioned its network, which was built by local firm Optilan, back in 2007.

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It elected to relinquish control of the wholly-owned and managed asset primarily for cost reasons, according to Damian Gannon, cabinet member for strategic finance and resource at Coventry City Council.

“It was an Invest to Save programme we initiated a few years back to reduce council bills with the idea that we would eventually expand the network,” said Gannon. “But we never really had the opportunity in the current financial climate.”

With Coventry City Council not in a position to invest in further improvements itself, but nevertheless conscious of the need to support regional business growth and competitiveness in an improving economy, the opportunity presented by CityFibre had clear benefits for the local economy, said Gannon.

The partnership will see the Coventry Core undergo an extensive programme of expansion and upgrades to enable local internet service providers (ISPs) to offer enhanced speeds to business customers, who will get access to the council’s network for the first time.

Following the upgrade, Coventry will be transformed into a "gigabit city" as part of an accelerating CityFibre programme that has already seen it take charge of networks in Peterborough and York. The acquisition of the Coventry Core increases its national network footprint by 50%, it claimed.

CityFibre said it went largely unchallenged during the procurement process due to a lack of interest in taking on the project from other infrastructure providers.

“With existing infrastructure providers, their own networks are very much tied to their technology – in BT’s case, that’s copper,” said CityFibre co-founder Mark Collins.

“Being presented with a fibre network is challenging for BT because it doesn’t fit into its way of operating. We found a good fit between the asset the council has and what we do because our model is pure fibre infrastructure.”

Expanding in line with business demand for fibre

The expansion will be led by business demand, and CityFibre has already launched a pre-registration campaign to entice businesses to register their interest in upgrading to fibre.

Collins said he hoped to generate at least 1,000 business registrations off the back of the launch of the Gig Up Coventry campaign, with the first customers expected to be signed later this summer.

A potential expansion into consumer broadband may follow, but CityFibre will not, however, serve as an ISP.

The Coventry Core network expansion will unlock previously inaccessible levels of connectivity, speed and resilience

Tim Luft, The Serious Games Institute

“We steer clear of that,” said Collins. “Local business ISPs are generally very good at adopting fibre strategies so we are happy to work closely with them.”

Tim Luft, CEO at Coventry-based gamification specialist The Serious Games Institute, commented: “As a tech company, connectivity and quality of service is central to our success and this is becoming increasingly true of many businesses in a data-hungry digital world.

“We spend a lot of time transferring enormous files and this network will unlock previously inaccessible levels of connectivity, speed and resilience,” he added.

The ambitious upgrade process will see CityFibre massively expand the existing asset into a future-proofed, full fibre network that it hopes will continue to function beyond the end of the century.

The fact that 140km of fibre, along with an extensive duct network, already exists, should make this job substantially easier, quicker and potentially much cheaper, said Collins.

For Coventry City Council – which will retain a long-term right of use to the network for 300 offices, schools and other council-owned sites – the benefits of CityFibre’s investment will be felt beyond the cost savings made by not running the project itself, and the boost to area businesses.

“We will have access to faster fibre broadband to help assist with the internal changes that we’ve been going through to become more agile, such as getting people to work more effectively to reduce paperwork,” said Gannon. “Better connectivity helps with that.”


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